Metallica's Lars Ulrich explains how his dreams of being a tennis star 'came crashing down'

'Music was always hovering, and music was my escape away from the discipline of tennis'
Lars Ulrich of Metallica
Lars Ulrich of Metallica Photo credit Theo Wargo/Getty Images
By , Audacy

Tennis player turned Rock legend, Lars Ulrich of Metallica, joins the SmartLess podcast this week to talk with hosts Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett about his journey from sports hopeful to metal master, what language they actually speak in Denmark, and much more.

LISTEN NOW: SmartLess | Lars Ulrich

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As some fans may be unaware, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich made his way to the States from his home in Copenhagen, Denmark in the late seventies not to begin his massive Rock career, but to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, father, and uncle who were tennis greats back home. "When I finished school in 1979 in Denmark, I ended up in Bradenton, Florida," Lars explains, "the first year of Nick Bollettieri's tennis academy."

"It was also a transitional time in tennis, where up 'til the mid-seventies to the late-seventies, the best tennis players all over the world were the ones that had the most talent," Lars adds, "but as it shifted in the late-seventies the best tennis players ended up becoming the ones that worked the hardest at it... There was a seismic shift in the whole setup."

Things certainly seemed promising for young Lars, but eventually, he noticed he was lagging behind. "I went the first year to Nick Bollettieri's, and after that, we moved out to Southern California and ended up in Newport Beach where I was going to attend Corona del Mar High School with my dad's friend -- the tennis great from Australia, Roy Emerson -- his son Anthony. So in Denmark, in my junior years, I was ranked in the top 10 consistently in the country," Lars says, "and when I came out to Southern California and went to Corona del Mar High School in 11th grade I did not make the f***in' tennis team. I was not one of the seven best players at Corona del Mar High School."

"The whole tennis dream of following in the Ulrich footsteps came crashing down in one afternoon," Lars admits, "and Rock n' Roll was hovering in the trenches and took over. Music was always hovering, and music was my escape away from the discipline of tennis."

"My dad's passion away from tennis was also music," Ulrich adds. "So I grew up in a very musically rich household. There was a lot of all the Jazz greats -- from Miles Davis, to [John] Coltrane, to Charlie Parker, to Dexter Gordon and a lot of [Jimi] Hendrix, The Doors, The Rolling Stones -- playing out of my dad's music room all the time. There was a lot of music in the family."

Listen to Metallica Radio and more on the free Audacy app

Listen to more with Metallica's Lars Ulrich on this week's full episode of Smartless -- now streaming on Audacy. Smartless is a podcast that connects and unites people from all walks of life to learn about shared experiences through thoughtful dialogue and organic hilarity. A nice surprise: in each episode of Smartless, one of the hosts reveals his mystery guest to the other two. What ensues is a genuinely improvised and authentic conversation filled with laughter and newfound knowledge to feed the Smartless mind. New episodes come out every Monday.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images